Injunction Awarded in Rights of Light Case

With development and construction leading the way in slowly starting to return to normal after COVID-19, it is worthwhile pointing out a recent case on rights to light. The case is called Beaumont Business Centres Limited v Florala Properties Limited [2020] EWHC 550.

In this case, Beaumont Business Centres successfully argued that the development of a neighbouring building owned by Florala Properties Limited had caused a substantial interference with its rights of light, amounting to a nuisance. 

The Court therefore ordered an injunction to cut back the development so that the loss of light was reversed or gave Beaumont the right to be paid damages in lieu of an injunction with those damages being assessed on the basis of what might have been paid if the parties had negotiated a release. 

The damages were estimated at about 33% of the additional profit being made by Florala unfettered by the right of light compared with the most profitable alternative development if Florala had been constrained by the right to light. Unusually, the choice of remedy was left to Beaumont but this was because a leaseholder had not been made a party to the proceedings.  Without the leaseholder being a party to the claim Beaumont could not follow through with the injunction. 

This meant Beaumont could either take the damages that had been ordered or issue a further claim against the leaseholder to see whether the injunction could be pursued. However, the fact that damages were ordered does not necessarily limit Beaumont from achieving a different result by negotiation using the leverage created by the injunction. The readiness of the Court to award an injunction has surprised some developers.

Following the case of Coventry and others v Lawrence and another [2014] UKSC 13 there was an expectation that the Court might order damages in lieu more frequently.  Furthermore, in this case, the majority of the rooms that were being impacted by the loss of light were already poorly lit.  However the Judge rejected the argument that there would be no substantial interference unless a very well-lit room was turned into a very poorly lit room. Most of the time an injunction is a far more prejudicial outcome to a developer especially where the property has been built and now needs to be altered.  The cost of alteration, in many cases, will far outweigh any damages that might be ordered by the Court. 

This case therefore highlights the need to ensure that where a development is likely to impinge on the rights of light that the developer should look to buy out those rights before embarking on the development or look to cover any claim through insurance.  I should add that both parties to a rights to light claim can unwittingly prejudice their respective positions and it is therefore important to carefully consider your strategy before engaging with the other side.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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